Chinese tourists likely to receive waivers for visas

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Chinese tourists likely to receive waivers for visas

In a move to boost the Korean tourism industry, the government is looking into waiving visas for Chinese tourists while encouraging public workers to use up their annual vacation days.

Additionally, the government is considering implementing a five-day school week where students would have both Saturdays and Sundays off.

President Lee Myung-bak met with Yu In-chon, minister of culture, sports and tourism, in Pyeongchang yesterday to discuss ways to enhance the Korean tourism industry. The ministry is trying to triple the tourism market in Korea while drawing 20 million foreign visitors by 2020.

“I believe tourism is an industry that could create good jobs,” President Lee said in the meeting with Yu. “We need to focus not on the volume of tourists but the quality of tourism.”

The government plans to increase the number of Chinese tourists by approving a 30-day entry to Korea without visa. The visa waiver program comes at a time when China will host the Shanghai Expo next year.

The culture and tourism ministry said it will work with the Chinese government to implement no-visa entry. Korea, China and Japan are heavily dependent on one another in tourism. Last year 2.37 million Japanese visited Korea, accounting for 30 percent of all foreign tourists here. Some 2.38 million Koreans traveled to Japan. While 3.96 million Koreans visited China, which is 30 percent of foreigners traveling there, only 1.17 million Chinese traveled to Korea, which is only 2.6 percent of Chinese taking trips abroad.

In 2006, Jeju Island drew Chinese tourists without visas. As a result, while there were only 3,800 Chinese visiting the Korean island in 2005, last year the number shot up to 22,000.

Additionally the government will encourage government workers to use up their vacations. Employees in the public sector get a maximum 20 days of vacation in a year but on average use only six vacation days. The remaining vacation days are compensated financially. The government plans to encourage employees to use all of their vacation time. The government is also considering implementing a five-day school week starting in 2011 to encourage domestic travel.

According to the Korea Leisure Industry Institute the local leisure industry surpassed 10 trillion won ($8.6 billion) in 1995 and reached 33.2 trillion won in 2007. It is expected to reach 40 trillion won in 2010. The leisure industry surged as the five-day workweek was implemented in 2004, encouraging families to travel on weekends.

By Lee Ho-jeong []

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